Doors – Riders On The Storm

Riders on the Storm sounds like a song some cool jazz midnight DJ (WKRP fans…think Venus Flytrap) would spin in the old days when they actually could pick what they played. It’s a song to chill out to and I’ve always liked it.

The song is off The Door’s last album with Jim Morrison…LA Woman. The song peaked at #14 in 1971 in the Billboard 100, #5 in Canada, and #22 in the UK.

This song evolved out of a jam session when the band was messing around with “Ghost Riders In the Sky.” It was Jim Morrison’s idea to alter the title to “Riders On The Storm.”

This would be the last song Jim Morrison recorded. He went to France and died a few weeks later.

Ray Manzarek: “There’s a whisper voice on ‘Riders on the Storm,’ if you listen closely, a whispered overdub that Jim adds beneath his vocal. That’s the last thing he ever did. An ephemeral, whispered overdub.” 

From Songfacts

The song can be seen as an autobiographical account of Morrison’s life: he considered himself a “Rider on the storm.” The “killer on the road” is a reference to a screenplay he wrote called The Hitchhiker (An American Pastoral), where Morrison was going to play the part of a hitchhiker who goes on a murder spree. The lyrics, “Girl you gotta love your man” can be seen as a desperate plea to his long time girlfriend Pamela. 

As it says in Jim Morrison: Life, Death, Legend by Stephen Davis, in 1962, while Jim was attending Florida State University in Tallahassee, he was seeing a girl named Mary Werbelow who lived in Clearwater, 280 miles away. Jim would oftentimes hitchhike to see her. “Those solitary journeys on hot and dusty Florida two-lane blacktop roads, with his thumb out and his imagination on fire with lust and poetry and Nietzsche and God knows what else – taking chances on redneck truckers, fugitive homos, and predatory cruisers – left an indelible psychic scar on Jimmy, whose notebooks began to obsessively feature scrawls and drawings of a lone hitchhiker, an existential traveler, faceless and dangerous, a drifting stranger with violent fantasies, a mystery tramp: the killer on the road.” 

The Doors brought in bass players Marc Benno and Jerry Scheff to play on the album. Scheff came up with the distinctive bass line after Manzarek played him what he had in mind on his keyboard. It took a while to figure out, since it was much harder to play on a bass than a keyboard.

Ray Manzarek used a Fender Rhodes electric piano to create the effect of rain.

This was the last song on the last Doors album with Morrison. Fittingly, it ends with the storm fading slowly to silence. The remaining Doors released two more albums without Morrison before breaking up in 1972. In 2002, Kreiger and Manzarek reunited as “The Doors Of The 21st Century.” Densmore, who says he wasn’t invited to join them, went to court and eventually got a ruling preventing the group from using The Doors in its name, so they changed their name to “Riders On The Storm” after this song. 

The single was shortened for radio play. Some of the piano solo was cut out.

In 2000, the surviving members of The Doors taped a VH1 Storytellers episode with guest vocalists filling in for Morrison. Scott Stapp from Creed sang on this track.

Creed contributed a version of this to the 2000 Doors tribute album Stoned Immaculate. Creed also performed it with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger at Woodstock ’99. Krieger sat in on Creed’s “What’s This Life For” during the set.

Doors drummer John Densmore wrote a book called Riders On The Storm about his life with Jim Morrison and The Doors. 

Eric Red, the screenwriter of the 1986 film The Hitcher, has said that his screenplay was inspired by this song. He said in an interview with DVD Active: “I thought the elements of the song – a killer on the road in a storm plus the cinematic feel of the music – would make an terrific opening for a film. I started with that scene and went from there.”

When the 71-year-old Ray Manzarak was asked by the Somerville Journal in March 2010 if he turns up or turns off Doors music when he hears it on the radio. Manzarek said, “Oh, God, turn it up! Are you kidding? Living up in northern California, it rains a lot, so they play the heck out of ‘Riders on the Storm.’ And when that comes on, I crank that sucker, man.” 

When he recorded this song, Jim Morrison had already decided that he was going to leave the band and go to Paris, where he would die. Some of the lyrics in this song (“girl, you gotta love your man…”) relate to his love for his girlfriend Pam Courson, who went with him to France.

At the end of this song, there are sound effects of thunder, and the faint voice of Jim Morrison whispering, “riders on the storm.” This was envisioned as his spirit whispering from the beyond.

Riders on the Storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm.

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirming like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If you give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road, yeah.

Girl you gotta love your man
Girl you gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah.

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm.

Riders on the storm (X4)

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

30 thoughts on “Doors – Riders On The Storm”

  1. I love The Doors. Admittedly, this was never one of my favorite songs, but I’ve grown to appreciate it more. LA Woman is a fantastic album. John Densmore has always been one of my favorite drummers. I read his book awhile back and found it pretty interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s one of my favorite albums by them. I like the album cuts also like Hyacinth House. I bought the album for 10 cents in mint condition at a family yard sale when I was a teen in the 80s…best 10 cents I ever spent.

      I need to read something about them…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would say! It’s looking like me and Mikey are going live this Friday night at 7pm if wifi and the gadgets work out! Lol
        We’re counting down our favourite Live albums from 23 down to 12 or maybe 12 to 23 see what Mikey says
        But it will be posted to YouTube as well

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Cool dude! Even if it’s not in the countdown… check out The Who Live At Leeds… dude it kicks ass…never have I heard a band so tight.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I learned a lot from your post Max. I liked the Doors and listened to all of their songs when Morrison was in the group. This is a great song for traveling down the highway. I picked up hitchhikers back in the day and I actually met a really good friend by giving him a ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not either man… Jim was a headcase no doubt. There are a few select that I like.
      You won’t like my album cut Sunday lol…I went through a Doors phase and then…phased out of it.

      Oh that Judas Priest album…I’ve listened to some of the cuts…they sounded really good. I covered Living After Midnight right before I met you. That one and John Denver I believe on the same Saturday…variety is the key of life lol. They were living in John Lennon’s old house when they recorded Living after Midnight…it’s a cool story.

      Thanks Deke!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This album is one of my favorites by them…this and the debut. I’m doing an Album Cut off of it this Sunday.

      Like

  3. I love Ray Manzarek’s keyboards on this song. Have you seen the video he did about it? I’ll put a link to it in a separate comment (as I know links sometimes go awol in your blog!)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Val thanks by the way for your kind words at Bruce’s blog. I really like that guy. He has some great stories. Most are dark….and he is a good composer. His music is really good.

        Liked by 1 person

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